Armyworm infestation hits Leander neighborhood, experts say wet weather may be to blame


AUSTIN (KXAN) — An infestation of hungry caterpillars, also known as the armyworm, is invading a Leander neighborhood.

“Whenever I was walking across the grass to go across the yard I noticed the grass was dying, which surprised me because we put a lot into the yard, then my eyes adjusted and I noticed on every single blade of grass there was a worm,” said Katherine Gonzales, who lives in the Larkspur neighborhood.

These caterpillars don’t do too much damage when they are small and just a few of them, but when they grow to about an inch and a half and a lot of them, they can devastate plant life in your yard or garden.

Usually, infestations take place in late summer or early fall, but the weather can play a big part. Experts say the rain can help with egg survival and it can also delay predators from feeding on the eggs.

“The good thing is we have a lot of predators which are going to help us with a lot of this stuff,” said Wizzie Brown, an entomologist with Texas A&M Agri Life Extension Service. “It can be anything from small animals like armadillos, or skunks, or things like that which would be eating the caterpillars. We also have various insect predators like ground beetles.”

Texas A&M scientists declared war on the fall armyworms back in February. A professor there received nearly $500,000 to track these worms’ behaviors and genomic traits, and that way they can learn to control the pests. The project will last three years.

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